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Is ILM a Promise or a Reality?
The buzz is on for information lifecycle management to put an automated lid on this can of worms. Since this technology is still new enough to prompt questions, we sought out Dr. Phil Storey, CEO of XenData, a company that develops software for managing fixed content data, to learn if ILM is as good as its promise.
Today, on a single Windows server, archival software can be combined with RAID and high-performance tape libraries to serve as a standard rewriteable file system. With this combination, the business need for access to data can be aligned with the business need to put data on the appropriate media with a known scheduled destruction date.
The single server presents the different storage types as a single drive letter, so archival software runs with any application. System administrators now have full control over the storage hardware and a solution to the complex issue of providing access to disparate applications.
As an example, XenData's Archive Series Software provides virtualization and legal compliance by supporting SAIT and AIT write-once, read-many (WORM) tape libraries and RAID on a single server.
"These two elements work together to provide ILM in our product that is real and shipping today to our customers," says Storey.
Legal Compliance Made Easier
Enterprise storage managers have talked for years about open system policy-based data management. Today, software is becoming available to allow system administrators to set policies in open systems so that the systems run automatically. Think of it as a three-phased process:
- Phase 1. All data written to a subdirectory is stored simultaneously on RAID and tape. By writing to WORM tape cartridges, data authenticity is ensured. By allocating the subdirectory to a set of tapes due to be destroyed according to the policy schedule, it's assured that data will not be kept longer than mandated, and it becomes easier to control tape inventory.
- Phase 2. After the time specified by the policy since the last data access, the system removes the data from RAID. If the data needs to be accessed, it is still available on tape.
- Phase 3. The tape containing the data is destroyed according to the policy schedule.
According to Storey, "In a system with multiple applications, each application can set up its own folders and its own rules."
ILM and Backup
Storey recommends to his customers using the Archive Series solution that they stop performing snapshot backups. Instead, companies implementing open system ILM should replace snapshot backups with a data replication scheme. The system administrator specifies the number of tape replicas which are then updated automatically, allowing rotation of tape cartridges to a secure off-site location.
"If you also back up your data to tape, you can get confused and you destroy the audit trail," says Storey. "You wind up with an uncontrolled number of tape copies, which ruins any hope of maintaining data destruction policies."
Mindful that any new technology presents risks to early adopters, we asked Storey about any challenges posed by open systems ILM. According to Storey, the only limit today is the computing environment. At present, only Windows-based solutions are available, but "if this one restriction fits into your environment, then an ILM solution is easy to implement," says Storey.
Storage managers can implement the solution in a heterogeneous environment by running Microsoft Services for UNIX on a Windows-based ILM server. This allows UNIX clients to archive and retrieve files via NFS at the same time as Windows clients write and read files using CIFS.